TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - For the Hyman family of six, this is their first Christmas dinner at the Topeka Rescue Mission. But being with the Mission's residents this holiday is just like being home with family, they say.
"It's like the second or fifth time you see them and it's like 'Oh my gosh, I want to see family and friends.' You get really happy," Mateo Hyman said. The nine-year-old is a regular at the mission, coming out on Saturdays to go on rounds with his dad. Both his parents, Sara and Ed Hyman, work at the mission. They say coming to the mission 11 and a half years ago, gave their lives direction.
"We started at the Hope Center. We became homeless in California where we were both born and raised," Sara Hyman recounted. "A good friend told us about Topeka, how good it was as a community," she said.
The Rescue mission helped the Hymans on their feet, something mom and dad say they never want their four kids to forget.
"We want to keep our children remembering the true meaning of Christmas, also to never to forget where we started off at," she said.
The Hymans aren't the only transplants drawn to the mission by its generosity.
Country Legends 106.9's Program Director, Robb Rose moved here from Chicago last year. "One of the things I noticed about moving northeast Kansas is the community has really big shoulders," he said.
In collaboration with members of the 13 News team, he and Country Legends were able to make many people's wishes come true.
"This year $82,300 and some dollars worth of toys and clothing donations is what we raised for these folks here," he said. "It's fun to come out here and get to see people benefitting from that," he said.
More than 50 volunteers helped on the day of, handing out gifts and serving a hot meal to about 500 guests.
This year's holiday dinner was a yummy plate of brisket, mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn and an assortment of pies, not just served to mission residents. Anyone in the community wishing make new friends over a good meal was invited to 600 N. Kansas Ave.
"Some of the people in the community don't have families, so having a place where they can come celebrate," Christmas Coordinator Nell Ritchey said. The mission encountered some challenges raising donations, but in the end, Topeka came through.
"It was amazing, we were able to take care of everybody," she said. "Even some of the very last people that we gave gifts to, we were able to find exactly what they were asking for."
Executive Director Barry Feaker says 2012 was a challenging year, not just during the holidays.
"At times, we've had more homeless children than we've had single men at the shelter," he said. "The food baskets that we're giving out this year [..] we'll be giving out will be more than the previous four years combined," he said.
Still Feaker counts his blessings. He got to see his first grandson, who was born in Washington D.C., for the first time this Christmas season.
"We've been doing this for about 27 Christmases now," he said. "Fortunately this Christmas, our whole family gets to be together; which has been a change. It's a very special time, especially with my new grandson. [It's] just really an honor to do this together."
Feaker says seeing everyone come together this Christmas Day, has renewed his faith. Already Feaker says next year is going to be a big challenge as the economy is still soft, but he says he is confident Topekans will continue to give what they can.